Unless you’ve been living in a cave the past week, you’ve seen video of the massive protests rocking Egypt and shaking the foundations of the Middle East.
The stakes could not be higher for the Middle East or the rest of the world. One authoritarian regime—that of Tunisia—has already been overthrown. Another, Saudi Arabia’s, is decrying the protests.
Israel is nervously watching events, concerned that Hosni Mubarak, the most reliable Arab leader in their eyes, may be toppled.
Islamic hardliners in Iran and Palestine are cheering on the protesters, hoping that a moderate Islamic government will be replaced by a fanatical Islamist one.
Meanwhile, global financial markets have their eyes on the vital Suez Canal, through which two million barrels of oil flow each day.
What’s happening in the Middle East is one of the most volatile international situations since 9/11. Will the government win? Will radical Islamists highjack what might be a nascent democratic movement? Nobody knows.
But one thing should be very clear to anybody who is paying close attention—especially to Christians: People everywhere, we see it in the streets, are yearning to be free. And they yearn to be free precisely because every man, woman, and child, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or otherwise, is made in the image of God.
We know, as Augustine taught, that God, who has a free will, bestowed upon us the gift of free will. The desire for freedom—the freedom to choose right from wrong, the freedom to order our lives—is imprinted in our very DNA.
This is what the biblical worldview teaches us. And that is why tyrannical governments can put a lid on freedom for only so long. Inevitably that human desire for freedom will boil over—just like it is doing in the streets of Cairo today. Just like it did in Iran last year, where protesters tried—but failed—to overthrow Ahmadinejad and his theocracy of the mullahs.
As Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries teeter on the brink, we can see so clearly that the biblical worldview is the only worldview that is rationally sustainable. The only one on which to order our lives as individuals and nations and prosper.
Yet another worldview may soon be on display in Egypt for all to see. That’s the worldview of radical Islam. A worldview that denies that humans are born free or that humans are made in God’s image (that would be akin to idolatry according to Islamic teachings). It’s a worldview that preaches ultimately one goal: submission to Allah.
Already, a democratic opposition leader, Mohammed ElBaradei, is talking with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood about participating in a coalition government. Could an Islamist foot in the door lead to an Islamist Egypt? If so, the clash of civilizations, which historian Samuel Huntington predicted nearly two decades ago, may be unavoidable—particularly a clash between the West and a more radicalized, expansionist Islam.
The ramifications of such a clash would be hard to imagine. But they will be real, significant, and will affect the world for generations to come.
At the same time this can be a teaching moment. As the world’s eyes are focused on the earth-shaking events in the Middle East, we need to be able to explain why the biblical worldview gives humans the only basis for dignity, peace, and freedom. We need to explain this winsomely to our neighbors.